Girl catches bubonic plague from dead squirrel

A seven-year-old is expected to make a full recovery after catching bubonic plague from burying a dead squirrel.

Girl catches bubonic plague from dead squirrel

Sierra Jane Downing, Photo: AAP

Sierra Jane Downing, of Pagosa Springs in the United States, was camping with her family in southwest Colorado, reports the Associated Press.

After returning home, she started to feel sick and her parents thought she had the flu.

However, when she suffered a seizure and 107 degree fever her father rushed to her hospital, although doctors were initially baffled.

One doctor called around other hospitals before Sierra was flown to Denver. There, a pediatric doctor at Rocky Mountain Hospital began to suspect she had contracted the plague based on her symptoms and after reading an online journal of another teen who had similar symptoms.

Dr. Wendi Drummond, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital, agreed and started to treat Sierra Jane with an antibiotic as they ran tests, which confirmed their worst fears.

Just over a week ago Sierra Jane's heart rate was high, blood pressure low and she was suffering from an enlarged lymph node in her groin.

However, the plague is highly treatable if diagnosed early and she could now be discharged from hospital within a week and met with reporters yesterday.

"She's just a fighter," said her mother, Darcy Downing, who said her daughter may have been infected by fleas near a dead squirrel she wanted to bury at their campground on U.S. Forest Service land.

The bubonic plague, or Black Death, killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe in the Middle Ages but today it can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.

Plague is generally transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas but this is the first case in Colorado in six years.